First garden villages get government backing

The first ever garden villages, which have the potential to deliver more than 48,000 homes across England, have been given government backing.

The 14 new garden villages – from Devon to Derbyshire, Cornwall to Cumbria – will have access to a £6 million fund over the next two financial years to support the delivery of these new projects.

“This money will be used to unlock the full capacity of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to accelerate development and avoid delays,” a statement said.

The government has announced its support for three new garden towns in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston – and a further £1.4 million of funding to support their delivery.

Together with the seven garden towns already announced, these 17 new garden settlements have the combined potential to provide almost 200,000 new homes across the country.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said, “Locally-led garden towns and villages have enormous potential to deliver the homes that communities need. New communities not only deliver homes, they also bring new jobs and facilities and a big boost to local economies. These places combined could provide almost 200,000 homes.”

However, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned that the government must not sacrifice greenbelt land as it comes under pressure to hit headline targets.

“Done well with genuine local consent, garden villages and garden towns can be part of the solution and certainly preferable to what is currently happening in too many parts of the country – poor quality new estates plonked down on the edge of villages and market towns, in the teeth of local opposition and in defiance of good planning principles,” said Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

“But CPRE will look closely at these specific proposals to ensure that they really are locally led; that they respect the Green Belt and other planning designations; and that they meet housing need, particularly the need for genuinely affordable housing for local people, and are not driven by over-ambitious, centrally dictated housing targets,” he added. “Where communities support new settlements, they should be protected from speculative planning applications for a long time to come.”

Gilston village, and neighbouring hamlet Eastwick, would entirely disappear in the proposals of the East Herts local plan. The council has applied for Government funding for a new garden town of 10,000 houses that would act as an extension to Harlow and swallow these two settlements, with a current parish population of 228.

“These plans herald the death knell of the rural character of whole swathes of Hertfordshire,” said Kevin FitzGerald, honorary director of CPRE Hertfordshire. “Beautiful villages, supposedly protected by Green Belt, look set to be swallowed up by the urban sprawl of neighbouring towns. Housing targets are putting immense pressure on our area, and marginalising the basic purposes of the Green Belt which the Government has pledged to protect.”

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